Thursday, June 5, 2014

UVI Class of 2014: Destined to Change the World

Harvard professor, award-winning filmmaker, literary scholar, journalist and historian Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. addresses the graduates at Commencement.

At University of the Virgin Islands commencement ceremonies on May 17, on the St. Thomas Campus and on May 18, on the Albert A. Sheen Campus on St. Croix, graduates declared that they are ready for everything that lies ahead.

“We are ready to revolutionize the world and make those who invested in us supremely proud,” said St. Thomas Campus Class Speaker Natalie Richardson, who earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration on the St. Thomas Campus. She said the Class of 2014 will remain optimistic because the class is passionate about the issues which prove their abilities and challenge their potential. “These memories that we have made will live with us forever,” Richardson said. “But even more so the bonds that we have forged, friends that have turned into family, dreams that have turned into reality, and dedication that has turned into success.”

St. Thomas Class Speaker Natalie Richardson
“Our inclusion in today’s ceremony shows, that we have what it takes to sacrifice, to start a project and see it to completion,” said UVI Albert A. Sheen Class Speaker Allison De Gazon, who earned a masters’ degree in business administration. “This academic journey defined us and showed us what we are all made of.”

De Gazon urged her fellow graduates to defy the norm of walking away from their alma mater after receiving a degree. “The baton to build our businesses and our community has been passed to us,” she said. “We must embrace all we have been taught by our professors and utilize everything within us to focus forward and transform this community.”

“Together we are all walking through the door fully equipped with knowledge, faith in God and the ability to lead any institution to success,” she said. “I believe we can have everything we want if we help others get what they want.” De Gazon continued, “At the end of life, it won’t matter how many degrees we have earned, how much money we’ve made or how many material things we have amassed. What will matter is how many people we have served and what our community has to say about our contribution, our affiliation and our legacy.”

View and like Commencement photos on the UVI Facebook page:

De Gazon took advantage of every open door offered by UVI. She participated in the UVI Upward Bound Program, participated in the student exchange program, was president in the Golden Key National Honour Society, president of the debate team, and earned her bachelor’s degree at UVI. Recently, De Gazon participated in the 13D Entrepreneurship Program and took home the top prize of $30,000 for her business plan named Cruzan Organix Farm.

Sheen Class Speaker Allison De Gazon
“Let us embrace the opportunities that lie ahead” she said. “Let us honor our past by demonstrating excellence and leadership in every undertaking. Let’s represent UVI and these Virgin Islands with pride and conviction.”

“I hope your experience here has taught you that your dreams can come true,” UVI President David Hall told the graduates. “I hope you understand now at a much deeper level that your future is within your hands. Dr. Hall continued, “I hope you understand that this university was created for you so you can have the experience that you just had. Now you must go out and create something that allows the dreams of others to be fulfilled as well.”

“UVI has done its work well if you aren’t just looking at what stands behind you, but you are able to see more clearly what lies ahead of you – even if others can’t see,” he said. “At this special moment we want you to peek in the mirror of the past few years and be thankful and joyous for what you see, but more importantly, we want you to look into the window of your endless potential and know that you are destined to change the world.”

The UVI Class of 2014 was addressed by Harvard professor, award-winning filmmaker, literary scholar, journalist and historian Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., UVI’s 2014 keynote speaker on both campuses. “You can’t know where you are going until you know where you have been,” said Dr. Gates. “Your education has made you ready to move from point A to point B and beyond. You are ready to go as far as your dreams will take you because you have the strongest validations and the tools of which to build on.” A day after the St. Croix ceremony, Dr. Gates traveled to New York to receive a Peabody Award for his PBS television series “The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross.”

Dr. Gates, the Virgin Islands’ first elected Delegate to Congress the Hon. Ron de Lugo, and St. Croix baseball legend and youth mentor Horace Clarke were awarded UVI honorary degrees at the 2014 Commencement. De Lugo was unable to attend the commencement ceremony, but his daughter Angela de Lugo received the degree and was hooded in his stead.

At the Commencement Ceremony on the St. Thomas Campus, Dr. Hall presented the cap, gown and hood to the family of the late David Payne, Jr., a UVI alumnus and graduate student who was killed in front of his Anna’s Retreat home in 2012. Payne earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from UVI in elementary education in May 2012 and was enrolled in UVI's Master of Arts in Education program on the St. Thomas Campus at the time of his death. In 2011, he earned an Associate of Applied Science degree in criminal justice. “We are honored to present this regalia to his sister and his son and present it to say to the entire family that David still lives in our hearts, but we especially say to his son that we want you to wear this regalia in honor of your father when you graduate from UVI,” said Dr. Hall.

He said that he believed Payne would have earned his degree had he not have been killed. “You may kill the dreamer but you will never kill the dream,” said Dr. Hall. “Virgin Islanders must strive to do great things in their lives.” After Payne’s death, UVI increased its efforts to reduce violence in the community with the creation of the Anti-violence and Peace Initiative in honor of Payne’s memory in order to ensure that others do not suffer the same end.

On the Sheen Campus, UVI awarded a posthumous nursing associate’s degree to Natalie Fenton, who was working towards that degree while fighting a battle with cancer. She died on April 18.

UVI conferred over 300 degrees at the commencement ceremonies.